JIMMY BUFFETT --"Hot Water" MCA Records. *** To describe Jimmy Buffett in one word, it would have to be "enigmatic." Is he country? Or pop? Is he folk? Or a Caribbean calypso man?
While critics are trying to label him, Buffett smiles and throws them another musical curve. On each new album, Buffett seems to set his course in new directions.On "Hot Water," his 16th album over the past 15 years, Buffett is sailing his musical ship in every direction at once. And while most artists are unable to pull off such a feat, the scattered approach in this case works like a charm.
Buffett kicks off the album with the pop-rock of "Homemade Music," follows that up with the R&B dance tune "Baby's Gone Shopping" and then throws in "Bring Back the Magic," a dynamite country duet with Rita Coolidge and Jimmy Buffett at their vocal best.
The musical seesaw continues with a variety of soulful ballads, bluesy rockers, Caribbean folk and African rhythms. And he rarely covers the same ground twice.
As his fans have come to expect, in addition to guitars and keyboards Buffett employs a wide array of exotic instruments to carry his sounds: steel drums, congas, vibes, etc.
In addition to "Bring Back the Magic," Buffett chips in some real gems, particularly the blues-rock of "My Barracuda" (with Steve Winwood), the spicey sounds of Johnny Clegg's "Great Heart" and the brutal humor of "Smart Woman (in a Real Short Skirt)."
Lyrically, Buffett is right on target, whether he is singing about populist philosophy or environmental concerns ("One night they put a price on the sunset and that got the whole earth shakin' ").
On "That's What Living Is to Me," Buffett quotes Mark Twain's addage "Be good and you'll be lonesome." Then he adds his own refrain: "Be lonesome and you'll be free."
"Hot Water" gives you an appreciation for Buffett's amazing musical diversity - a diversity only a handful of artists have ever demonstrated. And Buffett delivers the goods.
Former Eagle Timothy B. Schmit adds some nice guitar and vocal work, and James Taylor chips in on vocals, too.
What the new album lacks is thematic continuity - a single thread to bind the songs and styles together. And if anything keeps "Hot Water" from becoming one of Buffett's best, it will be the splinter effect the album may have on his fans.
But taken one track at a time, "Hot Water" ranks with anything in the Buffett catalog. And it will have critics scratching their heads even more.
HAIR: The American Love Rock Musical (Original Cast Recording) RCA Records. (SS)(SS) If you just can't get enough '60s mania, relief is now on store shelves. Satisfaction in this case is the release on compact disk of the classic rock musical "Hair," an original cast recording that took America by storm when it was released in 1968 (No. 1 for 13 weeks).
Now you can have "Aquarius" and "Let the Sunshine In" and "Hair" in all its '60s magic, coupled with the digital splendor of the 1980s. And while many attempts to digitally remix 1960s masters have been marginal, the sound quality on "Hair" is surprisingly good.
For fans of "Hair," the compact disk has a couple of notable advantages over the old scratched album gathering dust. One, the CD follows the order in which the songs appeared in the script, and two, the CD includes six previously unreleased tunes, some of them reprises.
In other words, "Hair" the CD is for '60s purists who want to re-live the authentic experience. This CD will probably appeal only to purists, especially when you consider these songs were memorable not so much for the music, but for the psychedelic slice of life they portrayed.
"Hair" opened on Broadway April 29, 1968, with a cast that included, among others, Diane Keaton and Melba Moore.
The musical was the brainchild of two unemployed actors who hit upon the idea of taking to the stage the changing society around them. "There was a lot happening at the time and we were following everything," said James Rado.
As a result, the musical - the first of its kind - dealt with sex, drugs and war, which made it one of the most controversial Broadway plays of the past 20 years. Fans of "Hair" spoke fondly of the dawning of a new age - the age of Aquarius. Today, "Hair" is an amusing dinosaur, a window to society's fads.